Fortesa Latifi, Tim Johns and Chelsea Rae Ybanez

Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017

Some Arizona residents push back against police through protests, ballot box

PHOENIX – As thousands of protesters hit the Phoenix streets in July 2016 to protest the killings of black people by police, the Rev. Jarrett Maupin felt their anger.

Maupin, who has positioned himself as one of Arizona’s most high-profile civil rights activists for the past decade, is no stranger to conflict: He’s helped organize protests across the Valley, one of which threatened to shut down Valley freeways.

But this march, he said, felt different.

“That was the first time I had ever been at the helm of a march reminding people to be non-violent, reminding people to watch their language and their level of aggression,” he said. “That was the first time I had been attacked at the front of the march by people who were marching, and it’s quite a thing to be attacked by people when you’re at the helm of the march.”

Protests have broken out across the country as videos of police killing unarmed black men have gone viral, juries have acquitted white officers in the killing of black people, and white nationalists have taken to the streets to fight for white power.

Arizona wasn’t immune to the unrest. Maupin said people here were simply “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

(Video by Chelsea Rae Ybanez and Tim Johns)

Arizona residents have pushed back against what they view as a history of discriminatory laws, police brutality and police overreach in a variety of ways – from shutting down city council meetings and staging protests to running for office.

Joseph Garcia, the director of communication and community impact at the Morrison Institute, said he’s seen progress in Arizona as voters ousted prominent elected officials – including Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce – all of whom supported stricter immigration policies.

Arizona to become minority-majority state

Arizona long has wrestled with racial tensions.

In the 1970s, Cesar Chavez led a hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of Arizona’s migrant farm workers. Arizona was one of the last states to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday, prompting boycotts and perceptions of the state as racist.

And when the state in 2010 passed Senate Bill 1070, which required law enforcement officers to determine the legal status of people they stop, it resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the protests and boycotts that followed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union .

But Arizona is on the edge of a demographic tipping point. The state now has the sixth-largest Latino population in the country, according to Pew Research Center.

According to the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, based at Arizona State University, the state will become a minority-majority state within the next 10 years, meaning the non-white population will become the majority of the state’s population.

Yet the balance of power doesn’t necessarily reflect those demographic changes.

A 2016 analysis by The Arizona Republic found that 74 percent of Arizona lawmakers were white and non-Hispanic even though they only make up 56 percent of the statewide population. Only 19 percent of legislators were Latino, although they made up 30.5 percent of the state population.

The racial imbalance also is reflected in the state’s police forces. While 44 percent of Arizonans are non-white, non-whites are underrepresented among officers in nearly every Arizona police department represented in a 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics survey, according to a Cronkite News analysis of the data, the latest available.